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Chrome and Chromebook thoughts

July 5, 2011

After playing with my free Google I/O Chromebook for a week now, I’m more positive than I was initially.  I’m still not at all impressed by Samsung’s hardware; it feels cheap and plasticky, and with a $500 price tag that’s not a good thing.  The Lenovo S10 I picked up to play with over a year and a half ago was cheaper but feels more solid.

But I do think the OS has potential; having explored device collections for awhile now, it’s an interesting point in the space to have a device that’s designed explicitly to rely on storing information in the network. But while I think Chrome-the-OS has potential, the biggest issue I have with it is that most websites just don’t offer user experiences that are as compelling as those offered by native applications. It’s not that they can’t, it’s just that most desktop websites haven’t been designed to provide that type of experience. They’re websites, not web applications.

I can use Google itself as an example: I find their smartphone and tablet Gmail web applications to be much more compelling than their desktop version. However, those same examples demonstrate that better web applications are possible for Chrome.  To my mind the biggest question around Chrome is whether designers and developers are willing to spend the effort to create compelling web applications, particularly when they could instead allocate their resources to building native iOS or Android applications. The best chance for Chrome may actually be mobile web efforts such as dojox.mobile and jQuery Mobile; by raising the game for mobile web apps, they may also show the way to creating more compelling web applications for desktop browsers and web operating systems like Chrome.

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